In 1995, Martin Seligman asked an interesting question: How do we find out whether psychotherapy works? To investigate the answer, he looked at a Consumer Reportssurvey of people who had received mental health care for a variety of problems. In his peer reviewed article, Seligman argued that the Consumer Reports study had methodological virtues that made it a reasonable way to assess what types of psychotherapy worked best. More importantly for my purposes, Seligman also reports that the Consumer Reports respondents generally improved, with no one type of therapy being any better than any other. He writes:
No specific modality of psychotherapy did any better than any other for any problem. These results confirm the “dodo bird” hypothesis, that all forms of psychotherapies do about equally well (Luborsky, Singer, & Luborsky, 1975). They come as a rude shock to efficacy researchers, since the main theme of efficacy studies has been the demonstration of the usefulness of specific techniques for specific disorders.
Autonomy is one of the three precursors of motivation as defined by self-determination theory. It can be difficult to support a user’s autonomy in the context of health, because achieving healthy outcomes often requires a specific set of behaviors that may not align with what a user actually wants to do. One intervention that I think has done a nice job of supporting user autonomy within a reasonable behavior change framework is Mindbloom’s Life Game.
I love that my company’s app is getting such traction out in the real world. I also think it’s a great idea to include not just workout instructions with outdoor exercise equipment (which can also be found in several places along the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge, where I live), but also the tie-in with an app so people can maintain exercise consistency across locations. I’ll be curious to see how this station gets used by the residents of Biddeford.
Most of the data I work with is self-report, provided by a user to a database via a device like a computer or a mobile phone. No live counselor or coach processes that information before it’s crunched in the database and appropriate content selected for the user to read.
There are drawbacks to this method to be sure. We don’t have the luxury of interpreting non-verbal cues like facial expression or tone of voice that could give nuance to a user’s words. We can’t be as sensitive about follow-up questions as we would be in a live conversation, since any follow-ups and their associated skip logic are pre-written. And we don’t allow users an opportunity to add color commentary, which leads to occasional frustrated feedback from users who really want to explain their specific circumstances related to their health.
As a lefty, I’m sympathetic to the move toward digital note-taking. It’s a lot easier for me to type than write, especially when you factor in cruel inventions like the three-ring binder, the spiral-bound notebook, the No. 2 pencil, and the gel ink pen. However, the psychologist in me is forced to come to the defense of physical note taking: paper and pen. Continue reading A Psychological Defense of Pen and Paper Note Taking→